Students picking litter by kayak, University of Oxford


At the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15), the University of Oxford and UN Environment Programme (UNEP) announced the launch of the Nature Positive Universities Alliance

Published: December 12 2022


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The Nature Positive Universities Alliance brings higher education institutions together to use their unique power and influence as drivers of positive change. Universities already carry out environmental and conservation research to help inform government and company action, but by publicly tackling their own supply chains and operational impacts on nature, universities can help guide the wider community on a path to address the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution.

The Alliance is a global network of universities that have made an official pledge to advance efforts to halt, prevent and reverse nature loss through addressing their own impacts and restoring ecosystems harmed by their activities. This push is part of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, a movement to avert climate catastrophe and mass extinction. 

Desert planting in India

The initiative launched in December 2022 with 117 universities from 48 countries. The participant universities have made individual pledges to address their impacts on nature.

University pledges include four key elements: 1) Carrying out baseline assessments; 2) Setting specific, time limited and measurable targets for nature; 3) Taking bold action to reduce biodiversity impacts, protect and restore species and ecosystems, while influencing others to do the same; 4) Transparent annual reporting.

The initiative builds on the University of Oxford's experience in setting an ambitious target for biodiversity net gain by 2035 alongside net zero commitments. Oxford's Environmental Sustainability Strategy is founded on a study which quantified its environmental footprint and established a framework to address them.

E.J. Milner-Gulland, Tasso Leventis Professor of Biodiversity at the Department of Biology, University of Oxford, and co-founder of the Nature Positive Universities Alliance, said:

'As universities, we occupy a unique position in educating future leaders, researching solutions to environmental challenges, and influencing our communities and governments. By addressing our own institutions' environmental impacts, we can be powerful thought leaders while also directly contributing to restoring nature.'

All the founding universities announced today have pledged to assess their impacts to determine the most impactful initiatives to introduce, and to report on their progress.

Examples of initiatives so far have included the establishment of nature-friendly infrastructure such as ecological corridors at University of Buenos Aires, Argentina and University of Campinas, Brazil and new green walls at the UK’s University of Lincoln to support pollinators (shown, below right).

Further examples include contributing to afforestation and restoration through the development of institutional forests at Government Dungar College in Bikaner, India (See picture above), and the University of Aveiro, Portugal, and completing university-wide surveys and audits of biodiversity at the University of Turku, Finland, and targets to increase biodiversity for all University of Melbourne campuses.

University of Lincoln Green Wall and solar project

People from a further 408 universities are already part of the wider network, playing their part in bringing their universities closer to meeting environmental targets, by developing research, lobbying their senior management and sharing case studies of their activities.

The network also includes a Student Ambassador Programme, which totals over 100 students from across 35 countries who are taking action toward nature positive awareness and approaches on their campuses. They are encouraging their universities to make an institutional pledge through advocacy and organisation of nature-positive activities such as volunteering for nature restoration, establishment of sapling nurseries and using their studies to further advance their institutions’ sustainability.

Sam Barratt, Chief of Youth, Education and Advocacy at the UN Environment Programme, said: 'Universities live at the heart of cities, at the crossroads of students’ futures and provide ground-breaking research that educates and informs society. We are delighted to see Universities will be joining hands to reset our relationship with nature so that, through this Alliance, new action and possibilities are created. The virtue of higher education has come from a reappraisal of the present to then steer the world to a new future. We look forward to seeing how the Nature Positive Universities Alliance does just that for this agenda too.'

The Nature Positive Universities Alliance is calling on other universities worldwide to join its collaborative network and to make institutional pledges.



Information on different ways for universities and their members to engage, or how to ask your university to consider making a pledge, can be found at www.naturepositiveuniversities.net.

Picture captions: University of Oxford students and faculty on a litter picking exercise on the River Cherwell in Oxford (Credit: University of Oxford). University of Lincoln green wall and renewable energy project (Credit: University of Lincoln); Shyam Sunder Jyani, a Sociology Professor of Govt Dungar College, Bikaner, India has established institutional forests and sapling nurseries on his campus, and is involved in native planting to combat desertification in Rajasthan India (credit: Shyam Sunder Jyani).